Breathing And Breath Support
WHAT IS TECHNIQUE? A quick Google will provide you with many blogs and articles DEDICATED to vocal technique claiming to be total, complete, end-all be-all guides. But here’s the truth:
MOST of Them Are Too Vague
The blogs and teachers aren’t wrong, but they also use terms like, “Proper Technique”, “Breath Support”; and say things like “Breathe from the diaphram”, “make sure you have a strong foundation”, or “get your breath under you”. But what exactly does this all even mean? The truth is, there seems to be an expectation that a singer will internalize what these terms and just start doing it, and some teachers will teach you what works for them and expect that to work for you. I have even had teachers make it sound as if the way THEY use their technique was the only way to employ proper technique and that is not necessarily the whole truth. The reality is, a singer’s instrument is their body and if we know that all bodies are different, why should we expect everyone to use it the same way? Yes, there are things that are unhealthy, period, but there are other things that we as human beings are allowed to personalize. There is more than one place to breathe.
SOME of those places are:
- Lower abs
- Back (Lower back)
Why Start With Breath Support?
While breath support is only one component of healthy technique, I have found it to be the very foundation of successful technique. Once you have mastered breathing technique and figured out how to get your support to work for you, it will enable you to more sucessfully master:
- Phrasing/ Musicality
- Style (Stylistic Choices)
- Sustaining Long Notes
Where do I start?
The first step is to find out where (in your body) breathing is comfortable FOR YOU. By relaxing your entire body and starting by trying to draw breath into each of the locations listed above, you can begin to find the most comfortable and natural place for you to take breaths while singing. The goal is to make your breathing second nature so that you can focus on the mirad of other things you have to while you’re performing. Eventually, you will be able to draw breath into your entire midsection all at once (360 Breathing) which will maximize your breath reserves and allow you to sing longer phrases and stonger tones.
What Is Support?
Once you have figured out how to breathe, you can then begin to adapt that to what vocal coaches refer to as “support” or “breath support”. This is the practice of employing the muscles in your mid section, especially those that surround the cavity you are breathing into, to maintain and control our breath reserve to carry us through a performance. It is also how we keep unnecessary tension out of our throats and unwanted strain and stress away from our vocal chords. That is not to say you should absolutely, under no circumstances, ever feel your throat reacting to the production of sound, but it should never hurt. The most helpful advice I have ever recieved regarding this is “If it feels good and it sounds good, it is good!”
How can I make sure my support is activated?
A strong and engaged foundation is what allows Beyoncé to sing while dancing, and P!nk to sing while performing an aerial routine. Every vocal coach that I have ever had has told me that singing should feel like an ab workout and there is no understating the amount of energy and stamina it takes to use technique. One trick that can help to engage your core is laying on your back, placing books on your core, and pushing against the weight by breathing in; or simply placing your hand on your stomach to tell what that tension is supposed to feel like. This is ONLY for the beginning stages. The goal is for you to be able to feel what that core engagement feels like on the inside no matter what position, situation or angle you’re in while singing. Although there is nothing wrong with placing your hand on your core while singing in order to check in with your body and make sure your suppprt is wroking correctly, you dont want to become dependant upon the weight of the book or the presence of your hand in order for your body to be activated. Again, the goal is for all of this to become second nature so you can focus on all of the things that will make you compelling to listen to as a musician.
Why is it so important?
The main importance (aside from aiding in the health and longevity of your instument) of having your breath support working for you will allow you to maintain clarity of tone, reaching high notes and keeping in tune overall. A big part of why people tend to go out of tune isn’t because they can’t hear the note they’re supposed to sing; it often comes from tension in the throat, which can trap the note, or not having an engaged core, which can hinder your ability to reach a top note while using the correct placement. On another note (pun intended), while pitch and intonation is one of the most common culprits of a less than enjoyable listening experience, its not the only one. Another of these cuplrits is tone (which you may hear reffered to as “color”) and placement. Sometimes an in-tune note with an unpleasant tone or incorrect placement can make a note sound out of tune, but having your support engaged will give you more control to play with tone and placement to find the most pleasant and compelling sound for your performance.
Having your breathing and support working for you is the foundation of your singing and will allow you to be present during your performances, stay in tune, and play with musicalty, dynamics, and style. It becomes the core of your voice and your ability.
Singing Technique And How To Find It (Part 1): Breathing And Breath Support.